The so-called Arab Spring of 2011 has cost the region’s economies an estimated $614bn of growth because of governmental changes, continuing conflict and falling oil prices, according to a UN agency.
The figure from the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), equivalent to six percent of GDP up to the end of last year, is based on growth projections made before the revolutions started.
Published on Thursday, it is the first estimate of its kind by a global economic body.
In December 2010, protests broke out in Tunisia which led to the first of the series of revolutions that became known as the Arab Spring, which later toppled four leaders and mired Yemen, Syria and Libya in war.
In its sixth year of conflict, Syria alone has suffered GDP and capital losses of $259bn since 2011, according to estimates from the National Agenda for the Future of Syria, another UN programme.
Oil prices began to slide in mid-2014 and fell to 13-year lows this January, hitting producer countries such as Saudi Arabia, and others including Lebanon that rely heavily on remittances from citizens working in Arab Gulf states.
Mohamed el Moctar Mohamed el Hacene, ESCWA’s economic development director, said the oil downturn would probably benefit producer countries.
“They will put in place economic reforms leading to real diversification,” he told Reuters news agency.
Meanwhile, the region needed more financial support from the international community.
“We have seen in Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Balkans the support they got in order to recover after conflict. We have not seen so far such support occurring for the Arab region,” Hacene said.
According to ESCWA, there has been some progress on social indicators, such as gender equality in Middle East.
“However, countries in and affected by political transition and conflict have regressed on a plethora of socioeconomic indicators over the past five years,” the report stated.
The Survey of Economic and Social Developments in the Arab Region 2015-2016 uses recent data to assess the destructive impact of instability and conflict, including on growth and economic output.
It also draws on research by ESCWA on migration, social developments, the impact of conflict, women’s empowerment and specific country-level analysis.